Publication Date



College of Arts and Sciences


English--Teacher Certification


The Road, Parable of the Sower, Pilgrimage, Religion, Morality, Apocalypse


African American Studies | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road represent two different views on how humans create meaning in a postapocalyptic world. The authors’ writings utilize the critical dystopia genre, in which the protagonists’ surroundings are bleak but the possibility of redemption remains. As Butler’s Lauren Olamina travels from her burned-down home to a place where she can begin a new community with her religion, Earthseed, as the foundational structure, she brings together a group of diverse and useful people who aid her in her pilgrimage to a better place. The protagonist’s identity as a mentally impaired black woman influences the ways in which she views the world and what it means to be “good” in a world run amok with capitalistic greed, rampant racism, and dangerous weather. Her pilgrimage ends in Acorn, where her actions cast doubt on her praxis of Earthseed, but those around her are positively affected by her religion and presence. McCarthy’s father and son place hope in the coast, making a long trek along the gray wasteland of the apocalypse. As they travel, the father’s pragmatism contrasts with the boy’s idealism, and their interaction with multiple strangers highlight the man’s wish for his son to physically survive, while the child wishes for a strict moral code so he can define both as the “good guys.” Their pilgrimage ends when the father dies, and the son joins with another family on the road. Thus, the man’s pragmatism condemns his son in the end, while the idealism which defines the boy allows him to find a community within a different group.